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How social media can boost franchise sales

How social media can boost franchise sales


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Mike and Janine Callahan are franchisees for Showhomes, which is upping its social media spending. The brand projects 40 percent of the 20 franchises it aims to sell in 2015 will come via social media.

More franchisors are trying social media to attract owners, and finding success. Development pros tell how to make the most of these tools and more.

This year Showhomes plans to spend up to 50 percent of its marketing dollars on sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to recruit franchisees. That’s a big leap from the 10 percent or less the Nashville, Tennessee-based home-staging company allotted for those costs in 2014.

The franchisor is making the radical change because it now counts social media among its most effective ways to target qualified franchisees, says Showhomes’ Chief Operating Officer Matt Kelton.

Showhomes is just one example of franchises acting on recommendations from franchise development consultants who say social media platforms can help them home in on the precise type of operators they want to attract. (See their tips on related topics in the accompanying story.)

Insiders say today’s franchisees are doing research online and often deciding whether to buy a franchise before contacting the brand.

Kelton says Showhomes has reached about 100,000 people a month since it began advertising on Facebook last spring, targeting people with an interest in its concept and industry. Well-known on HDTV, the brand’s services include staging vacant homes with furniture to keep them upgraded. It has helped real estate agents and homeowners sell more than 25,000 residential units.

According to Kelton, Showhomes sold at least two franchises in 2014 from online advertising. He projects 40 percent of the 20 franchises it aims to sell in 2015 will come via social media. “It’s much more pinpointed than the traditional shotgun type of marketing you see in franchise sales,” he says.

Data from the 2014 Annual Franchise Development Report show an estimated 87 percent of franchisors have a Facebook link on their website, while 73 percent have a Google+ corporate page. Yet it’s still important to understand how to use social media more effectively in order to make it a stronger part of a development strategy. And when it comes to making deals happen, 59 percent of franchisors say referrals have the highest close ratio of all lead-generation sources.

Still, the biggest challenge in online franchise recruitment is attaining high-quality leads, says Matthew Jonas, president at TopFire Media, a digital media and public relations firm in Homewood, Illinois. The focus should be quality, not quantity, he says, and the franchise recruitment website should be designed to provide the sales team an efficient pipeline.

Experts claim the franchise recruitment website remains a top factor for a franchisor’s ability to grow. Still, some 43 percent of franchise brands keep using a page on their consumer site for franchise leads, although data shows that is ineffective. Franchisors should have separate franchise recruitment websites to boost franchisee rosters, consultants say.

Also, franchisors must avoid the clutter and be very specific on what they are saying. Franchisors often don’t tailor their message to the audience they are going after with a social media or other marketing campaign, says Michael Seid, managing director at MSA Worldwide, a West Hartford, Connecticut-based strategic consulting firm.

While a franchisor may be targeting multi-unit franchisees, the information provided is often geared toward single-unit franchisees, and leaves out the value proposition for experienced operators.

Seid says information a multi-unit, multi-concept operator is seeking is different than what an investor group looking for a multi-unit opportunity needs, and certainly different for a single-unit franchisee looking for a first-time investment.

“It’s crucial that your offering matches up with what the reader needs to understand in making their investment decision,” Seid says. “The message has to be attractive enough to get the targeted candidate to go to the next step in their investment decision process.”

Sean Fitzgerald, chief development strategist at No Limit Agency, a Chicago-based marketing and PR firm, says it recommends clients have a compelling website with plenty of relevant content that explains why their particular industry is hot, what they do, why someone should buy a franchise and how their brand differs from others.

He advises development websites be mobilized and responsive. A responsive site differs from a mobile site in that it automatically adjusts to any screen size, whether it’s a tablet, smartphone, laptop or desktop.

Further, he sees “automated texting” as the next hot trend in the franchise development space, claiming it will be a stronger first contact tool than other options like email.

Mark Dawson, CEO and president of Home Brands Group, the Tempe, Arizona-based franchisor of Re-Bath, 5 Day Kitchens and bluefrog Plumbing + Drain, says the company launched its social media strategy with bluefrog in the first quarter of 2014. He says more than 20 percent of unit sales last year came from social media, and projects 20 percent of the firm’s goal to sell 36 units in 2015 will come from that tactic.

Bob White became a bluefrog franchisee after reconnecting with the brand’s CEO, a longtime friend, on Facebook. He invested about $90,000 to start the franchise for the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with two vans in November 2014. “The bluefrog branding, name and logo certainly separate us from competitors in the crowded plumbing space,” he says.

Social networking has allowed Philly Pretzel Factory to target prospective franchisees by city or geographic region, age and income and groups or “interests,” says Adam Terranova, the company’s marketing manager.


Bag of tricks

Franchise development consultants shared tips for franchisors seeking to award more franchises. Here are some:

  1. Franchise development sites should explain how a brand will help franchise candidates accomplish their income, lifestyle and other goals, advises Terry Powell, founder/CEO of The Entrepreneur’s Source, a national career and franchise coaching firm based in Southbury, Connecticut. He says 72 percent of investments and purchases are now made after the candidate learns how the franchise will help achieve goals.
  2. Encourage your franchise development team to shift toward an “award” mindset instead of a “sales” mindset, making sure prospective franchisees are a good fit for your brand.
  3. Tell instead of sell, advises Joe Mathews, founding partner of the Franchise Performance Group in Litchfield, Connecticut. Explain why the franchise is unique, profitable, necessary and sustainable for the long haul.
  4. Train and develop your franchisee recruiters. A skilled recruiter routinely outperforms marginal recruiters by 200 percent to 300 percent with the same lead sources.
  5. Create a content-rich 30- to 50-page franchise opportunity website, making it step one in the franchise sales process. Mathews says if the site is not converting 5 percent of unique visitors to leads, take it down and start over because it is turning away interest and pushing traffic to another site.
  6. In developing content to target potential franchisees, create a mix of consumer-focused and franchise-focused posts highlighting company and brand news or new target markets for franchising, says Matthew Jonas of TopFire Media. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are great channels to cultivate prospects.
  7. For a nominal weekly fee, franchisors can consider Facebook to target new followers to engage with their brand and generate awareness of franchise opportunities.
  8. Remarketing is another way franchisors can follow up with visitors who view their franchise recruitment websites, Jonas says. The site should require visitors to fill out minimal information such as their name and email address before providing them access to certain pages. Capturing the visitor’s email address allows the franchisor to follow up via email or send e-newsletters about the franchise and benefits of being a franchisee.
  9. Franchisors can boost search engine optimization to their current websites by developing and posting new content. This can be done by rewriting portions of the website and regularly developing new and appealing blog content. Google indexes websites based on new and unique content. Ongoing SEO initiatives can increase lead generation by up to 30 percent.

 

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